Kyle Porter, CEO of Salesloft has been an entrepreneur and sales professional for well over a decade and has been Co-Founder and CEO of Salesloft since 2011, seeing it through Techstars Accelerator Program, a Pivot in strategy, growth from 5 people to 60+, earning the title of one of the Top 10 Most Innovative Companies in Georgia and a recent $10 Million Series A round led by Emergence Capital and Jason Lemkin. All whilst holding true to his core beliefs and mission to become a Atlantan Unicorn to help change the lives of his employees and the technology landscape in Atlanta. For those reasons, Kyle is this weeks SaaSStar.
You can listen to the full interview on the SaaS Revolution Show Podcast available on iTunes to hear more and find out why Kyles our first citrus CEO. Below is an excerpt of that conversation
HI Kyle, Can you tell us more about what is Salesloft?
Well, one of the things that I’ve always been passionate about is helping others acquire customers. It’s always been an area that I’ve been focused on and when I had the opportunity to start a company doing that for other businesses, it was a really exciting chance for me.
So SalesLoft does really two things, but the most important thing that we’re doing is helping companies set more qualified appointments and demos. We do that by helping them build the most accurate and targeted list of prospects and then executing on a communication rhythm of emails, calls, and social drips that are all more personalised and more sincere but built and baked around this rhythmatic process of almost like those bumper guards of what steps you need to take next and real accountable process for turning prospects into qualified demos and appointments.
You mentioned a little bit about the growth. I think that’s one of my favourite things to talk about. We’ve had a really great growth story. In January of 2014 the company was 5 employees and 200k in revenues. Now today, which is 15 months later, we are a little bit more than 15 months later. Maybe 17 months later. We are around $6million and over 60 employees.
So we’ve had some significant growth. We ended last year on 4 and 40 so we’ve had the opportunity to really grow strong and a lot of it was based off a small amount of funds raised.
But we’ve just recently secured a $10 million Series A financing from a great enterprise SaaS investor out on the West Coast called Emergence Capital alongside a gentleman named Jason Lemkin who a lot of us know and writes the Saastr Blog and community.
So we’re just really excited to help companies increase the amount of clients that they have and do that through a sales development or a sales acceleration platform.
That’s a really impressive growth. And also thanks for the overview of SalesLoft. Is that breaking news about the Series A round?
It’s breaking news for this interview. We closed it less than a month ago or about a month ago. And instead of doing the kind of the PR and press thing that a lot of companies normally do we actually wrote about it transparently on our blog. So you can catch that on the SalesLoft blog. You just type in SalesLoft Financing. In Google you’ll find it.
And we go into a lot of detail about why we chose the investors we did, what the cap table looked like and what the investment round looked like and a lot of the kind of how we got the intros. It’s kind of a neat story. It’s a little bit of a narrative on how to raise $10 million.
One of the things I read that your sales guys were crushing it to to grow from 5 employees to 60 employees in such a short time, and hitting something like 400% of quota. So what is their secret? Or is it down to just having a great boss?
Well, maybe it means that their quota was too low. That’s what some people have joked. In fact, it’s no longer 400% of quota but I am happy to say that it is still above 100% of quota and that our quotas are in the top echelon for enterprise SaaS companies. So we have high quotas now but we’re still getting good attainment.
But I think it really boils down to 5 things for us. Number 1, and the most important of all things, is that we lead this business with culture and core values at the centre of everything. If we’re not creating an environment where people are excited to wake up in the morning and come and be a part of something special then we’re not going to be able to achieve the growth and the results that we’re looking for.
So we as the founding team and me as the founder and CEO, I put core values and culture above everything else. That means when there’s a trade-off, core values win and it means that we’re really intentional about them.
The second piece is that we honour the engineering culture and really, quite frankly, prioritise product above distribution of said product because customers see our products oftentimes before they talk to us and especially at the end of the day after we’ve been engaged with them they are left with our products. So it needs to be spectacular which means we need to have world-class engineering. And that means things like doing the right things in our software and engineering environment that software engineers say they’re going to do in their next company.
So true agile, true continuous deployment,test driven development, right tool for the right jobs. So all these things around engineering best practices.
Then the third piece is what we call a customer acquisition engine or machine. It’s on the front end doing the right marketing, paying attention to what our prospects need and solving their problems through content and then it’s the outbound team which is using SalesLoft Prospector to build lists of people to go out to and using SalesLoft Cadence to reach those people.
And then it’s our account executive team which is focused on understanding the objectives of our prospects. What are they trying to accomplish? Then through smart questioning and peer consultation showing them how our tool will help them accomplish those objectives.
Then after the deal is closed we want to exceed our customer’s expectation and love them. That’s Number 4.
Number 5 is build a community around our people which are top of the funnel sales development experts, professional appointment setters, build a community where people are engaged with great events, with great content, and great interaction.
And so we do all those 5 things and it helps our reps attain large percentages of quota.
What are your thoughts around every SaaS company creating a sales machine and repeatable processes, like Mark Roberge Implemented at Hubspot?
Yeah, absolutely. I mean, it just makes life so much easier when you can forecast, when you can know if you invest in this box what’s going to happen to the business. And the more repeatable, predictable, scalable… Those words can’t be used too often when talking about revenue. I think you got to get intentional about it early and you got to stay on it to make sure you’re making the right tweaks to move the business.
You mentioned Mark and he’s done a fantastic job. His book, I highly recommend it, is a really great place to learn some of these ideas. We obviously are putting out a lot of blog posts and content around creating this type of engine.
Now, we’re most focused as an organisation helping that top of the funnel piece, otherwise known as the Sales Development Rep, BDR, SDR, are kind of some of the terms you’ll hear. And we’re real focused on the specialisation and the first piece which is taking prospects, names of people and turning them into qualified appointments and demonstrations and then letting an account executive team execute on that to turn those into customers.
There’s a lot of talk about the sales hacking movement. As with the emergence of growth hacking that’s come through SaaS with lots of SaaS companies hiring growth hackers as a new role, are SaaS companies hiring sales hackers now?
For those that perhaps don’t know about sales hacking, can you talk a little bit more about that?
Absolutely. And there’s a guy I want to give a shout out to, Max Altschuler who is the founder of Sales Hacker which is a conference and community and they’ve done an amazing job. So it would be a great follow up for anyone listening to this to tap into that community.
I think what’s happening, I just read a big research study where they looked at the global employment. Some of the areas that were the hardest to fill from a job perspective and the technically savvy salesperson was one of the roles that was the most rewarding but also the hardest to find.
I think that’s what we mean when we start talking about sales hacker. We’re talking about the modern seller. This is someone who has the capability of understanding the traditional best practices of sales: spin selling, question-based approach, solution-oriented selling, diving in and becoming a peer of your prospect, but they also understand the new age methods of selling which are things like Chrome extensions, browser shortcuts, technology for screen share, for getting things done faster, for accelerating grunt work or hopping on social media. It’s this idea of folks that are finding unique and new ways to use technology to get more opportunities so they can then apply the traditional…
The sales of the old days has not gone away but you’ve got to figure out a way to do it more rapidly, to do it more targeted, to do it more frequently and that’s what sales hacking is all about. It’s using technology to your advantage to make things move faster.
Have you got anybody employed at SalesLoft whose title is Sales Hacker? Will we soon see a VP of Sales Hacking?
Yeah. We might not call it that title but we definitely will look for those characteristics in the folks that we hire. So in our organisation we now have 25 folks in our sales organisations, 15 in the sales development team and 10 in the account executive team. Many of these folks have come from modern SaaS-type environments or places where they’ve been experiencing this type of revolution of selling.
And so we definitely look for those characteristics but we probably have more traditional titles for folks like sales development, sales executives and their managers and directors. But, yeah, we see it happening.
And one of the gentlemen in my organisation, Sean Kester, he started off as our first ever sales development rep. Now he’s a speaker for Sales Hacker. So he did one of the New York presentations last month. So we’re totally adopted and bought into this methodology and mentality.
I think there’s a lot of discussion and debate around the SaaS Sales Model. There’s Mark Cranney’s great essay on the subject if SaaS products sell themselves why do we need salespeople. And I think you’ve also written about Atlassian and Basecamp and Moz not necessarily having sales professionals on their staff but still crushing it.
So what is your opinion on that? Are we going to be seeing a future these SaaS companies are going to be maybe 50%, or 100% of them with no sales people?
No, I don’t at all. I do admire some companies that are able to scale their businesses in unique ways but it’s definitely not the norm or the go-forward norm now.
One company in particular comes to mind that I’m quite impressed by. It’s a company called MailChimp. MailChimp doesn’t have any salespeople. They’re reported to be $100 million a year SaaS company really doing really well.
But when you think about this company there are not many of their customers that would significantly be destroyed if they lost their product. What I mean by that is that they haven’t engaged at a strategic level to where they’re fulfilling the objectives of the C-level people within the organisation. Now, they may have a large enough market to where they’ll continue to grow and be a great business but they’re not solving executive-level problems for the enterprises that they serve.
And I think that you require a level of interaction and engagement with your buyers whenever you are solving strategic, mission-critical, organisational challenges for companies. And so I think what’s happened is for point solutions and for workgroup products and for entrepreneurs or small businesses, there are a lot of things that you can get done without having a one-to-one engagement but when you start delivering solutions that are organisational-wide it does really require that opportunity to sit down and speak with someone and uncover their objectives, uncover their challenges, what are they doing today, how are they doing it, and paint the picture for a future with the product or service that you offer.
So no, I don’t think it will ever be gone but there will be companies that are able to deliver great products without sales organisations but it will be the exception rather than the norm.
As CEO of SalesLoft, do you believe that your role as the leader is to serve?
Yeah, absolutely. Did you just come up with that or did you read that off one of my blogs? Because I write that often.
Yeah. I think there’s a little bit of homework in there, on that one.
Okay. I think that’s exactly it. When I got into entrepreneurship, I’ve always been an entrepreneur my whole life. It’s been a part of me. And right around the time of college I knew that I had this thing inside me that had to be satisfied and I started to recognise it in other people too. I started to recognise other people’s entrepreneurial ambitions, their leadership ambitions, their professional career ambitions. It’s my purpose in life to help serve other people to accomplish those things.
So when I started looking at how can I do this in massive scale, I realised that by creating a great business I’ll have a vehicle for serving others. And really, the number one reason that we’re in business is to change our employees’ lives.
So SalesLoft’s mission is to be an Atlanta unicorn or a billion dollar company that the term’s now getting overused but not a unicorn in terms of valuation but in terms of exit valuation or even bigger down the road. But the reason that we don’t want the billion dollars as the end, it’s really a means to get to our goal which is to change the lives of our employees, change the landscape of our city; the Atlanta technology community. And then change the world of sales infusing personality, sincerity, personalisation, and this whole concept of sales development. So that’s really why we do what we do.
As a leader, that’s exactly what our role is now. Day 1, that means serve customers and the engineering team and get the first products built and delivered. But then it starts meaning grow the teams that are there to do that going forward and then it starts meaning grow and serve the teams that are going to grow and serve the teams that do that.
So that’s kind of the stage we got to now where we’ve got 60 folks and my focus is on making sure the whole entire organisation is served by having great people. So that’s absolutely my mission and objective.
That’s great and extremely admirable as well.
You mentioned becoming a billion dollar company and unicorns and, as you say, its a bit of an overused term at the moment. Or a fashionable term even. Do you think that maybe there are too many SaaS companies who are building a startup, just fixating on being a unicorn? Can it be harmful?
I’m not sure. I can’t comment much on other people’s goals and ambitions.
I think that if you run a company and you’re honest and true about what you want to accomplish and you’re able to communicate that to your team and get them on board then who cares what you call it or whether it’s in vogue or not.
The whole idea behind being an entrepreneur is you kind of have the opportunity to control your own destiny and you have the opportunity to build something great. That’s what we’re here to do so, to each his own. If someone wants to be a unicorn, that’s cool. We definitely want to be one.
I’m not going to hide that fact one bit. We were saying it before, a lot of people were saying it, but we’ll still continue to say it. It’s important to us to build something special but not just for the end goal of having a billion dollar company but for what that affords us, what that allows us to do. What a billion dollar company as a vehicle can do to change the world and that’s why we want to do it.
What is your favourite sales book that all of your team must read?
Yeah, I definitely have one. I have a mentor, Steve Richard. You might have heard of. Steve is one of the leaders in the inside sales movement. Steve introduced a book to me called the Joshua Story, RSVP Selling. I really fell in love with this book. It’s a fictional tale so it’s kind of like a fable, a sales fable about a young man. Kind of a coming-of-age story. It’s just really awesome because it talks about the true strategic nature of what great selling is all about.
I think the thesis that I drove from that is that selling requires genuine belief in yourself, in your company, and in your product and that all selling is is the transference of that belief and doing it in a way that makes the biggest impact. That book has been really awesome for helping me kind of hone that in. I definitely recommend it as a number 1.
Is there like a reading list for your team?
Yeah, there is. And there’s ones on there that aren’t sales. I guess people would consider Dale Carnegie relatively sales, but Dale Carnegie is an amazing author. How to Win Friends and Influence People is almost like a must-read every two years because you read it and you say, “I know this stuff but I don’t do it all the time,” and it just helps kind of remind you. That’s a great book.
Spin Selling is a classic that will never really go out of style.
In the newer stage, I think the Mark Roberge book is great. Predictable Revenue has been a great book that people have gotten a lot of value from.
I could go on and on and on but I really like kind of the last book recommendation I like the author Patrick Lencioni. He’s my favourite business author and he’s never written anything on sales specifically but around culture, core values, organisational health, leadership, meeting structure, hiring, leading all these different elements of what it takes to be a great leader. I highly recommend Patrick Lencioni.